11 février 2010

unslow criticism

[..] Sometimes it's hard to figure out the times we're living in. Are they the analogous times of hand written letters and mail coaches and ink-smudged fingers? Or the digital ones of the instantaneous here and now? And what does it mean when the entire spacetime continuum is compressed into that one ecstatic momentum presenting itself as an everlasting present? Is it nirvana or stasis?
And how do we measure the weight of words or the velocity of thoughts? Do they occupy space while travelling?
Last year de Filmkrant launched the Slow Criticism Project with a collection of essays and texts that looked beyond the latest craze. It was a way to encourage film critics to reclaim the field of reflection and ambiguity.
Over the year the Slow Criticism Project has become a counterbalance to the commodification of film journalism, and antidote to the haste and the hype, a speedy poison for a panicked recycle industry in which most media recycle each others opinions, announcing yet another record breaking box office wonder.
Slow Criticism, for us, is a refuge for rebellious and imaginative thinking, which is too often considered to be too personal, philosophical, poetic or simply not appropriate for day-to-day journalism. [..]

Dana Linssen (Filmkrant #318)

There is an interesting critical commentary of this above article (from the dutch online film journal Filmkrant's February 2010 special issue on "Slow Criticism"); read it here : "Slow Criticism: Overcooked Ideas in an Aptly Named Crock Pot" by Vadim Rizov (GreenCine Daily, 9 Feb 2010) :
What "Slow Criticism" would logically lead to is the assumption that the movies will find their champions somehow and float to the top, which is not how the world works. Yes, we need thoughtful, long-form considerations produced at the pace needed to get them right—often arriving at moments when they're "irrelevant" to the trend-obsessed many—but we need this other stuff too to even start the conversation. There's a snobbishness here towards pragmatism, both for the films and the careers of those writing about them, that baffles me. I'm inclined to blame people who have the liberty of being safely ensconced in academia and/or in periodicals: not the most lucrative market, certainly, but a more stable one, where the terms of the conversation are already set.

Vadim Rizov (GreenCine Daily)
I appreciate your pertinent scepticism (because it's important to reflect on what we read in the intellectual press before swallowing it whole and re-twitting it mindlessly) and astute remarks (though mainly superficial and without the necessary big picture perspective) about this Filmkrant project, maybe more rhetorical (noble intentions) than effective (not the best inspirational illustration to sell the concept).

No. The existence of a Slow Criticism, does NOT imply that films will "take care of themselves".

Critics, or reviewers, or people who happen to write about movies, often forget that their position as impartial judge of the film production is meant to be entirely independent from the studios marketing branch. Critics are NOT responsible for the commercial success/failure of any given film. Even if everyone would like to believe it.

Unfortunately, because of the inadequate media, because of the general poor taste of uneducated crowds, because of the expeditive distribution strategies, because of the hollow unsustainable profit-driven movie formats... filmmakers and studio executives rely too much on film journalists to drag the audience in. And critics see themselves as moviefans who have the power to "save" their favourite movies and "drive to bankruptcy" the movies that didn't match their individual expectations... Is the cultural landscape always defined by how much money is made???

With this mentality, it's so easy for the industry to manipulate film journalists into "doing their duty" and participating actively in the commercial career of every movie (which was predetermined by standardized test panels and tasteless economists). There are other professions responsible for this job : publicists, marketing agents, distributors, exhibitors, studio executives, the award shows... even gossip-journalists who help create a buzz around movie-release-related events. They all have (mutual) interests in keeping the star-system alive to benefit from the popularity of the movie business as a whole (disregarding the occasional individual flops, too bad for them neglected, misunderstood artists left behind).

And this self-alimenting circle can live on without critics, don't worry about it, don't worry about movies. Movies live and die by marketing decisions way ahead of time, before critics get to see them, before filmmakers get a chance to start shooting them. Even the smaller movies who need special attention from the media to reach out to their own niche audience, need more than good reviews by intellectual critics when they are released on one screen amidst 5 blockbusters that share the rest of the available screens... A favorable word-of-mouth can only do so much to help an isolated movie. [see my comment below this post]

If you want to help them you need to modify the system at its root. To improve the situation, you need to restore a film culture of higher quality! And for that you have to stop playing their game. How naive can one be to imagine the faith of a movie can change in one week on a handful of screens? Great cinema will not win in the long run if all critics give up their actual role in film culture. A role meant to scrutinizes the system that recycles these marketing methods over and over.

Obviously, slow criticism IS an improvement for counter mainstream culture, in principle. There is no need to bury this constructive idea because you didn't like one of its occurrence.
Look where you're talking from... Hasn't GreenCine Daily changed from fast-food linkage to "slow criticism" since the last editor left?

The Auteurs, for example and contrary to what it says on the tin, is the counter example of "niche cinephilia", or the idea American cinephiles have of an "auteurist counter-culture" in the land of mainstream mainstreamism. Sure it looks good when compared to the worst... the across-the-board Infotainment of mass media. So we are happily surprised to see unfamiliar film titles being trumpetted, the 24h news cycle remains identical to the traditional press methods however.
But is it world-class independent criticism for meaningful auteurs and important issues, or is it a marketing branch of what America affectionately nicknames "arthouse cinema" for Bobos looking for an excuse to their Hollywood guilty pleasures? Like a sanctuary for endangered species... the very species drove to extinction by the Hollywood system these reviewers continualy support by turning a blind eye on its shortcomings!
The new movie reviewers learn to expediate mileages of formated apparaisal, in festival-goer dialect for the film snubs, just like the film students learn to shoot mileages of formated scripts all year long. A coincidence more disturbing than curious if you think about it...

Their headlines galore is thrown out there to spoon-feed with quantity rather than quality, more than any reader can swallow per day or per year... as if cinema enthusiasts required this much information, as if they dedicated all their free time to ONE single website. There is something for everyone. Satisfaction guaranteed : in the multitude, there will always be at least one item catching your eye. Pure marketing tactics of industrials who are less confident in the quality of one than in the please-everyone-offend-none kind of carpet bombing. Let's keep them busy reading and twitting, they will have less time to pause and reflect upon it all.
If you put out more than it is humanly possible to digest, you don't really care for your content to be digested... and you don't mind if each single piece gets less individual exposure in the continuous noise published.

In the distribution business they have the "take the money and run" policy... in the film news business they do exactly the same : "fire and forget". Post away in the hope that the force-feeding of tomorrow will distract the quality control of today.

We really needed the liberty of internet, the non-cost-based structure of electronic writing, to end up in the same constraints the antic media conglomerates have established until now. Obsessed with readership escalation, non-stop abundance, exclusivity races, elusive coverage completude, illusion of authority, deluded uniqueness...

Let the binge begin, get drunk together! If everyone forgets what was said yesterday everything will be fine...

5 commentaires:

HarryTuttle a dit…

this is what I was refering to : "Where the Sun doesn't shine"
The NYT and The Auteurs totally oblivious of the fact that a key "auteurist arthouse film" gets a single screen in the USA (remember this is the LARGEST screen market on Earth, before China and India!) after almost 5 years.
If these venues are the models of "auteurism" you look up to and aspire to... this is no surprise you might find yourself in disagreement with the issue in my post above.

To each its own.

Adrian Mendizabal a dit…

yet another divide between the 'academics' and the 'journalist'. the first strike came from annoyed film academicians who wanted space, obviously. Hope this would go somewhere productive and meaningful.

HarryTuttle a dit…

Just to compare the The Auteurs Notebook (January 2010) to a monthly paper magazine here is a month-worth of table of content :

13 authors
76 total posts = 40 "Daily" linkage + 33 articles/photos
79837 words

mainly words and photos, only a couple of video posts, zero roundtable or other participative projects.

equivalent to about :
160 A4 paper pages to read each months! Let alone the hundreds of links, which would add up to a good thousand of pages.

Few posts get any comments, only a couple generate a participative discussion.

Needless to mention the main commercial purpose of this venture, which is to link to as many "VOD offers" as possible, just like the former GreenCine Daily did to push mail videos at GreenCine. Way to go "independence of the journalists".

This is valuable as a Wikipedia type of depository resource for cinema-related articles/infos/links (and only American articles of course)...
But the content is pure "cinephiliac" self-indulgence about "movies I loved", and not the critical insights we expect from a magazine of film criticism which would show some interest in the issues deteriorating film culture in America, the cultural censorship, the commercial formating, the industrial imperialism of distributors and the media.

Not only the Internet platform doesn't give more liberty, more creativity, more languages, more medium mix than in the traditional newspapers/magazines... but it's not even better in electronic form than the Press at its own outdated game.

I expected more, much more.

HarryTuttle a dit…

Paul Brunick : "Coordination and Aggregation: If the Web has made “everyone a critic,” it’s also made everyone an editor. David Hudson has become one of the most well-known bloggers in the cinephile universe, but what he offers his reader is not so much content as context: daily round-ups of the smartest film commentary on the Web. Where a conventional editor shapes his publication through assignments and copyediting, the new kind of editor-as-aggregator (call him a criticism jockey) selects from material that’s already been published and editorializes in the form of paratext. Hudson’s approach privileges curation over editorializing and quality-controlled scope over personalized selection, but there’s no set formula."
WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY: Part of the paradigm shift—or part of the problem? (Film Comment, Sept 2010)


HarryTuttle a dit…

What is this thing called the Slow Journalism Mouvement? 17 Nov 2008 (USC Annenberg) video YouTube 1h30'
Panel-discussion moderated by Douglas McLennan, editor of ArtsJournal.com, with Peter Sellars, festival, opera and theater director, Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA, Mister Jalopy, blogger and author of the Maker's Bill of Rights, and Naka Nathaniel, journalist.